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The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily permits the Trump administration to end field operations for the 2020 census on October 31 to give enough time to process the data before the year ends. The decision came with an unsigned order, from the dissent by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“Meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying. Especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress. This Court normally does not grant extraordinary relief on such a painfully disproportionate balance of harms.”Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor
As the ending came earlier than planned, this move might undercount racial and ethnic minorities in remote communities. The administration argued that it has already received enough responses for an accurate decennial census count while the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is studying the matter.
The U.S. Census Bureau, overseen by Trump appointee Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, announced in a press release on August 3 that they would end the count by September 30 to meet the December 31 statutory census report deadline to the president.
The Commerce Department also asked the justices to block a lower court ruling, barring the administration from stopping the headcount on October 5 to know the House seats and electoral votes number for each state before Trump might have to leave the office.
The case surfaced after Ross backtracked on a plan announced in April to extend the count until October 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moving calendar targets disrupted Census Bureau workers to survey door to door, resulting in a three-month delay.
No other justice explained nor signed the Sotomayor’s dissent order due to emergency applications. Meanwhile, Sotomayor emphasized that the administration was downplaying the risk of ending the census early as the census counted more than 99% of households in 49 states already.
“But even a fraction of a percent of the Nation’s 140 million households amounts to hundreds of thousands of people left uncounted. The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next ten years.”Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Meanwhile, Ross’ statement released on Wednesday morning implied that the Supreme Court’s move makes the 2020 census data collection appropriately end to begin the data process earlier for the decennial count to have a complete and accurate count.